Allusions to Dante: the Loss of Identity in "The Waste Land"

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Alex Harleen Allusions to Dante: the Loss of Identity in “The Waste Land” Harleen 1 The shifting perspectives and vague characters in T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” make for a confusing read. On my second time through the poem, a series of allusions to Dante stood out in a passage. Hoping to better understand this part of the poem, I compared the tone and structure of the passage to what I knew of Dante. On the surface, Eliot constructs the same multitudes of dead that Dante powerfully describes in “Inferno.” However, a comparison between the passage and “Inferno” proved problematic; unlike Dante’s writing, Eliot’s passage focuses on the crowd, ignoring the individual. Comparing the passage to Dante’s “Inferno” reveals that in “The Waste Land” the identity of the individual is lost, leaving the uniform and unexpressive group. Near the end of Eliot’s first section, The Burial of the Dead, Eliot quotes from Dante: “I had not thought Death had undone so many” (Eliot 63). Just past the gates of Hell, Dante utters the same line after witnessing a long file of souls condemned to Hell. Eliot’s allusion to
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